Deciding to draw a line in the number of businesses selling alcohol in Malibu, councilmembers voted Monday to deny an alcohol permit for Circle K on Pacific Coast Highway.
In a 4-0 vote, with Councilman John Sibert voting through teleconference, the council opted to deny the appeal of a conditional use permit for the sale of beer and wine for offsite consumption at the Circle K. Councilwoman Joan House recused herself because as a planning commissioner she had voted to reject the application.
"When do we start limiting? Do we start after the next one? Do we start now?" Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal asked at the beginning of the discussion.
Councilman Skylar Peak said the time is right to start limiting the number of alcohol permits.
"If we continue to add more ... we are going to have more issues with drunk drivers on the highway," Peak said.
Mayor Lou La Monte said he frequents the gas station and could stand in the Circle K parking lot and throw a rock and hit two other businesses that already sell alcohol.
"I think that is too many. I think the PCH is much too dangerous of a place," La Monte said.
The owner of Malibu 76 Circle K, MMK Enterprises, originally applied for an alcohol permit in March 2011.
The Malibu Planning Commission denied the permit for the sale of beer and wine in November 2011, and the owner appealed the denial in December of that year.
Commissioners cited an "over-saturation" of alcohol providers in the area around the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Rambla Pacifico Road.
During the public hearing, Don Schmitz, who represented the owner said there are already more than a dozen other alcohol permits in the city.
“We are the only ones where the city has applied this policy,” Schmitz said.
He said the area does not have high crime and that the owner is bringing in security services from 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“It’s laughable to call this a high crime area,” Schmitz said.
He asked for a six-month conditional use permit, pointing to previous city approval of a permit for the Malibu Inn.
Farzaneh Okhovat, who spoke in favor of the alcohol permit, said she believed the city was unfairly targeting the Circle K owner because he is Persian.
"This city discrimination needs to be stopped here," Okhovat said.
Mayor Lou La Monte reacted to the accusation with strong words.
"I am not basing my decision on ethnicity. I’m not basing it on whether you sell gas or not sell gas. I think that is rather insulting to all of us and the planning commission as well," La Monte said.
Malibu resident Julie Eamer of a Safer PCH spoke during the hearing about her concerns about another business selling alcohol on PCH.
"We are also nervous about the Circle K having this because that opens the door to all the other gas stations in Malibu to have it," Eamer said.
Kim Devore, who lives in a home behind Circle K, said she gathered 400 signatures from the local community opposing the permit.
"I've been fighting this since '07," Devore said. "I hope it is over."
Schmitz said the owner is considering all of his options moving forward.
"He feels singled out and extremely disappointed," Schmitz said.